NTSB: Driver in Fatal Tesla Crash Was Playing Video Game

WASHINGTON (AP) -
tesla crash autopilot
The scene of the Tesla electric SUV crash on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif., in March 2018. (KTVU-TV via AP)

The National Transportation Safety Board says the driver of a Tesla SUV who died in a Silicon Valley crash two years ago was playing a video game on his smartphone at the time.

Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at the start of a hearing Tuesday that partially automated driving systems like Tesla’s Autopilot cannot drive themselves. Yet he says drivers continue to use them without paying attention. He says the board made recommendations to six automakers in 2017 to stop the problem and only Tesla has failed to respond.

The board will determine a cause of the crash at the hearing and make recommendations to prevent it from happening again.

Sumwalt says government regulators have ignored the board’s previous recommendations for measures to prevent these crashes.

The crash involving a Tesla Model X SUV killed Apple engineer Walter Huang when it swerved and slammed into a concrete barrier dividing freeway and exit lanes.

NTSB investigators previously found that the system became confused at a freeway exit and was a factor in the crash.

Autopilot is designed to keep a vehicle in its lane and keep a safe distance from vehicles in front of it. It also can change lanes with driver approval. Tesla says Autopilot is intended to be used for driver assistance and that drivers must be ready to intervene at all times.

NTSB documents released earlier this month quoted Huang’s relatives as saying he had previously complained about Autopilot malfunctioning and swerving in the area near where crash occurred.